GOP votes to back public defender

Joseph McCarville became the Republican candidate for Webster County attorney Thursday evening.

He secured the GOP’s nomination in a 13-6 vote at a special convention at the Webster County Republican Headquarters, 900 Central Ave.

Nineteen of the 29 eligible Republican delegates were present to vote.

McCarville sought the nomination after campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the position, and losing to First Assistant Webster County Attorney Jennifer Benson.

Former state Rep. Dave Tjepkes, of Gowrie, officially made the nomination.

“As a party, we have an obligation to give our citizens and the voters in our area a choice,” Tjepkes said. “I think he will be an excellent candidate.”

McCarville highlighted his experience as an attorney and his deep ties to Webster County, after apologizing for attempting to shorten the process by running as a Democrat.

“First I want to apologize to the party. I tried to short-circuit the process. I thought I’d win the Democratic nomination. It’s all over. I don’t have to go through a campaign,” McCarville said. “That was a bad idea. I shouldn’t have done it. I apologize for that.”

McCarville has been an attorney with the state public defender’s office in Fort Dodge since 2000. He began his legal career in 1989 in the county attorney’s office under then-Webster County Attorney Jim Koll.

“I went to private practice for nine years, then went back with Jim Koll for – I think he was at the public defender’s office for 12 years,” he said. “I think the world of Jim. He was my mentor.”

McCarville said he has tried approximately 90 jury trials.

“I know that is far more than probably any attorney in northwest Iowa. It is certainly more than any attorney in Fort Dodge has tried, except for Jim Koll, who has retired,” he said.

McCarville went to school in Gowrie until 10th grade, and then graduated from St. Edmond High School. He has three children, the youngest of which will be a junior at St. Edmond this year, he said.

Kim Alstott, a Fort Dodge City Council member, asked about the recent Holly Ekstrom case.

“People in Fort Dodge are quite livid that (County Attorney Cori Kuhn Coleman) wanted to let this woman go who actually helped out with the murder,” Alstott said. “Are you going to be tough on crime?”

Ekstrom avoided a first-degree murder trial by pleading guilty to accessory after the fact to murder and operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent. She admitted she was present and drove the pickup truck used to dispose of Steven Fisher’s body after Ronald Dilley killed him in July 2013. Dilley is serving a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in April.

Prosecutors recommended Ekstrom be given probation, but Chief Judge Kurt Wilke rejected that and sentenced her to prison.

McCarville said he would weigh the facts of every case and apply the law to the facts.

“As a general principle, if you see someone get murdered and you cover that up, you should go to prison,” he said. “It is a difficult question to answer, unless you know all the facts of the case … I also have to say that if there are facts of the case that justify a certain decision that may seem outrageous to the public, somehow through some form you have to explain why you made that decision.”

After the vote, McCarville said communication will be one of his top priorities if he is elected.

“My biggest priority is to have clear, open communication with everybody, and to represent the citizens of Webster County and enforce the laws,” he said.